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Task Force secretary drawn into 'urban designer' row

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Urban Task Force secretary Jon Rouse has stepped into a row about architects and their place in urban design by slating new riba president Marco Goldschmied's professed desire to see architects take centre stage.

Rouse, speaking last week to the udal, said that the views were at odds with a holistic approach and cross-discipline working as set out in the Task Force report a fortnight ago - written by Rouse and Goldschmied's colleague Richard Rogers.

Rouse this week told the aj his comments - reported by udal vice chair Jon Rowland - were 'a joke to a private audience' and that he did not want to be drawn into conflict with Goldschmied. But he confirmed his belief that urban design was an interdisciplinary process. 'It has to be led by an urban designer, but whether that person has to be always an architect is subject to question,' he said. 'At the moment architects do the three dimensional masterplanning we advocate but we have lost the generation of architect/planners.'

Last week the Urban Design Alliance issued a spiky press release criticising Goldschmied for 'not knowing what his own institute was doing' in proposing that riba dominate the Urban Design profession. Neither is a proposal to set up an RIBA run master's degree in urban design welcomed, with many courses in the discipline already in operation around the country. Rowland said: 'Places and spaces between buildings are not necessarily the domain of the architect. Urban design does not belong to any profession. Architects can have no special claim to urban design. Urban design is not architecture.'

He added that he hoped Goldschmied had merely made a mistake rather than anything more sinister, but that his views had done 'damage'. Rowland, who teaches at Oxford Brookes, said architects found it 'very difficult to 'unlearn' building design to think about place design.' They had the advantage of a design 'vocabulary' but this was not the 'be all and end all,' he said. He added he would welcome Goldschmied at the monthly udal meetings, which his predecessor David Rock attended.

Terry Farrell, who represented the riba as founding chair of udal, added that the Institute should be 'putting all its energies into backing the Urban Design Alliance' supported by Government. 'Urban design and the recommendations of the Urban Task Force are about working in a holistic manner with all the professions in the built environment.'

udal is staging a free evening seminar to promote debate about the Task Force's findings on 19 July at 18.30 at the Institution of Civil Engineers. Speakers at 'Urban Task Force:What does it mean for Urban Design?' will include Prince of Wales' Foundation director David Lunts.

The Urban Task Force is aiming to hold a series of half day conferences in major uk cities to gather findings on the report. Around eight are scheduled, sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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